SEA Games: Singapore’s success in biennial Games always ‘hamstrung’ by local athletics, says Sports Minister in stinging rebuke to SAA

The report:

It’s the clearest sign that the sporting authorities are really angry with the Singapore Athletic Association for the current  state of local athletic. In a Team Singapore gathering at the Singapore embassy in Vientiane, Laos, yesterday, Sports Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that Singapore’s overall performance in multi-sport events like the SEA Games will also  hamstrung when athletics is not firing on all cylinders.

Definition of ‘hamstrung’ in the Oxford Dictionary:   “cripple by cutting the hamstrings’; ‘severely restrict’.

Ouch. What a strong word. I bet the track officials at the event must have either been cringing or left feeling mightily embarrassed too.

Damn shy lah. I would have found an excuse to beat a hasty retreat and get out of the embassy if I were one of them.

The Minister then went on to say that the SSC will work with the SAA to elevate the standard of athletics after the national body does an internal house-cleaning, sortsw out its internal affairs and get its leadership in order.

Ouch. Ouch. And ouch.

Then again, the SAA had this official rebuke coming for a long time.

Here’s the report as published in TODAY:

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Athletics needs to get its act together

(TODAY, 16 December 2009)

By Tan Yo-Hinn

VIENTIANE: With three days of competition remaining at the 25th SEA Games, Singapore lie third in the medal standings, with 31 gold medals so far. The Games end on Friday and by then giants Indonesia and possibly Malaysia may have overtaken Singapore.

But with favourites James Wong to go on Wednesday in the discus and Zhang Guirong to step up on Thursday in the shot put, the Republic could well win at least 33 gold medals when the Games’ flame is doused.

That would make Team Singapore’s performance a rousing success, considering the Republic fielded just 192 athletes to do battle in 19 sports (there were more than 400 in 2007 and they returned from Thailand with 43 golds).

While praising the performance of sports like swimming and table tennis, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, felt athletics had not contributed their “fair share” of medals.

“Right now, we’re third on the medal tally, but unfortunately I don’t think we will end the Games in third place, and that’s because we need athletics to start winning medals and delivering their fair share of gold and other medals,” said Dr Balakrishnan on Tuesday.

Without athletics firing on all cylinders, Singapore will always be hamstrung in our final performance in multi-sport events, so that’s a message I hope the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) will take into account.

Once a steady source of SEA Games gold, and even a few Asian Games medals in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Singapore athletics has since declined.

Apart from seven gold medals from men’s discus thrower Wong since the 1993 Games, Zhang’s wins in the women’s shot put (2003, 2007) and javelin (2005) and a gold from Du Xianhui in discus (2005), the sport has had little to cheer about at the SEA Games over the last two decades.

Instead, the sport has been hit with a spate of controversies.

We’ll have to let them sort their internal affairs and get their leadership in order, and then we’ll work with them and do our best to elevate the standard of athletics in Singapore,” he said. “But it’s something they have to start first with an internal house cleaning.”

Dr Balakrishnan was speaking at the Singapore Embassy, where about 240 Team Singapore athletes and officials mingled over a dinner hosted by Singapore’s Ambassador to Laos, Jeyaraj Benjamin William.

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Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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